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FOOTBALL: LIARS - O'Neill in rage over Dons link.

Byline: KEITH JACKSON

CELTIC manager Martin O'Neill moved yesterday to defuse a potential war with Aberdeen over claims he is attempting to sign Phil McGuire.

Furious O'Neill felt obliged to make an apologetic phone call to Pittodrie chief executive Keith Wyness after days of inaccurate reports linking him with a swoop for the young Dons defender.

And O'Neill interrupted his usual Friday pre-match Press conference at Celtic Park to savage our sorry and misinformed rivals.

The Irishman said: "Because we get linked with four or five players on a daily basis I normally say that it's all speculation. However, that speculation has got outrageously out of hand concerning Phil McGuire at Aberdeen.

"I spoke to Mr Wyness to categorically deny any interest in their player. I have never spoken to the player directly or indirectly.

"In my two years here I have never spoken to any one of their players even on a social level, never mind about ever coming to Celtic.

"Therefore, for a story to rage as it apparently did yesterday, on what was the day of a very important game for them, was unfair on their manager.

"I have never spoken to this player and anybody who offers

any other opinion is not telling the truth. I wouldn't normally go into this but this was ridiculous.

"Our club was being brought into disrepute by claims of supposed illegal tapping but there is not a grain of truth in it, not an ounce.

"Apparently I was supposed to have been speaking to the player on the mobile but the player will know himself that is not true at all."

O'Neill was particularly incensed that the reports disrupted counterpart Ebbe Skovdahl's preparations for Aberdeen's UEFA Cup qualifier against Moldovans Nistru Otaci.

And the Celtic manager - who even went to the trouble of asking Celtic PR chief Kate Cunningham to witness his telephone call to Wyness - added: "I asked Keith Wyness to tell the manager there is not one solitary grain of truth in the story.

"Kate was in the room when I had the conversation with him so that there would be some sort of witness.

"I think he believed what I said but I'm not so sure he had much alternative because it was absolutely true."
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 17, 2002
Words:378
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